Easy Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia Salad – Tropical, creamy, & sweet! A vintage fruit salad dessert with the perfect blend of tangy citrus, juicy cherries, sweet pineapple, and toasted coconut. This popular dessert salad makes a tasty choice all year round.

Ambrosia Salad is a perfect addition to a summer BBQ, potluck, or holiday gathering alongside dishes such as Grilled Chicken Caprese, Classic Bean SaladAsparagus and Gruyere Tart, and Sweet Potato Casserole.

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Easy Ambrosia Salad in a white bowl with a gold spoon

This luscious fruity fluff salad is a vintage dessert that will be a welcome addition to any gathering. The American classic side dish is made with sour cream, miniature marshmallows, toasted coconut, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and maraschino cherries.

A holiday staple that has stood the test of generations!

servings of ambrosia salad in dessert cups with a gold spoon

Why You’ll Love This Fruit Salad With Sour Cream And Marshmallows

  • A delightful and refreshing fruit salad dessert in a creamy base.
  • Holiday classic recipe. Commonly served at Easter, Thanksgiving, summer BBQs, and more.
  • Ambrosia salad is steeped in tradition and easily adaptable.
  • Quick and easy toasted coconut will set your ambrosia apart from non-toasted recipes.
  • Making ahead of time or the night before is even better.
  • Five minutes of active prep work is all it takes to make this ambrosia recipe!
  • The hardest part of this recipe is “waiting” for the ambrosia salad to set up in the fridge.

Vintage ambrosia salad recipe served in dessert cups with a gold spoon

What Is Ambrosia?

The meaning of the word Ambrosia literally means “immortality” in Greek or food of the gods. The salad was a treat reserved for special occasions and holidays.

According to Merriam-Webster: In Greek and Roman mythology, only the immortals-gods and goddesses-could eat ambrosia. While the ambrosia of the gods implied immortality, we mere mortals use ambrosia in reference to things that just taste or smell especially delicious. 

What is ambrosia IRL (in real life)? 

In the past, the word ambrosia would always bring to mind a creamy fruit salad with oranges, coconut, and sugar, and later to include marshmallows. More recently, you may have come across a wonderfully delicious apple* with the same name!

*FYI: Ambrosia apples are a perfect type of apple for ambrosia salad if you like to include apples in your recipe. This newer cultivar is crisp, sweet, and similar to the Honeycrisp in that the white flesh does not brown quickly when cut.

For this post, we’ll just focus on the very pleasing taste of fruit salad with sour cream, yogurt, and marshmallows, aka Easy Ambrosia Salad!

Ambrosia salad recipe ingredients

What You Will Need To Throw Together A Spectacular Ambrosia Salad:

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A little pioneer spirit, a sense of adventure, and a darn good strainer or colander are the foundation to this fruit salad with sour cream and marshmallows recipe! 

This easy ambrosia salad recipe is perfectly balanced in flavor, sweetness,  and texture, but don’t shy away from experimenting or a little trail-blazing of your own; there are lots of suggestions and ideas further down.

Ambrosia Salad Ingredients

  • Sour Cream And Greek Vanilla Yogurt – the creamy and contrasting tangy and sweet vanilla base that compliments the fruit.
  • Mini Marshmallows (White Or Fruit Flavored) – the quintessential ambrosia salad add-in.
  • Sweetened Coconut – the foundational “exotic” ingredient that started the whole ambrosia salad craze.
  • Canned Pineapple Tidbits & Mandarin Oranges – allow the fruit to drain in a strainer or colander for at least one hour for the best consistency and quality of your dessert.
  • Maraschino Cherries – to keep your ambrosia salad white, rinse and drain well. 
  • Pecans – The perfect garnish that provides a satisfying bite and textural contrast, with warm, nutty notes.

White bowl full of ambrosia salad with a cherry on top and blue napkin

How Do You Toast Shredded Coconut On The Stove

In this ambrosia salad recipe, I prefer to use sweetened shredded coconut, but you can use unsweetened if you prefer.  Note: un-sweetened takes a little less time to toast. Be sure to watch closely and remove the coconut from the heat source as soon as it turns light golden brown.

QUICK AND EASY: Place shredded coconut in a medium skillet over medium heat on the stove. Stir frequently until fragrant and toasted (about 2-3 minutes). Be sure to stir continuously as begins to turn color to promote even browning. 

IN THE OVEN: This will take a little more time and attention, but ultimately will yield even toasty and crispy coconut. Simply place the shredded coconut in an even layer on a small baking sheet. Bake at 350° F, stirring every 2 minutes until toasted (about 8-10 minutes). 

Ambrosia salad recipe how to picture collage

How To Make An Easy Ambrosia Salad

DRAIN the fruit for an hour for optimum results.

TOAST the coconut for 2-3 minutes in a skillet over medium heat.

FOLD everything except the pecans in a large bowl.

CHILL in the refrigerator.

SERVE chilled and topped with pecans. 

*Chef’s Tip: Allow your fruit to drain covered over a large bowl in the fridge. This can reduce the amount of time the ambrosia salad needs to chill to set in a pinch.  However, making far enough ahead gives the flavors time to blend and marry.

servings of ambrosia salad in dessert cups on a pink plate with a gold spoon

Substitutions, Additions, Tips For Easy Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia salad is an iconic southern tradition that started with coconut, oranges, and sugar. This holiday extravagance grew exponentially in flavor variations and ingredient combinations of fruit varieties, cream bases, and nut garnishes. 

Ideas/Tips For Ambrosia Salad With Sour Cream

  • Unless your event or holiday would be complemented by a vibrant pink ambrosia salad, rinse the cherries in cold water before draining.
  • Allowing the fruit to thoroughly drain will prevent your ambrosia salad from being runny.
  • Toasting shredded coconut is optional but significantly improves the coconut’s flavor, depth, and texture and brings out a lovely warm nuttiness in taste and aroma.

Variations On Easy Ambrosia Salad 

  • Not a fan of coconut or pecans? Leave them out.
  • Optional ambrosia fruits to add (traditional): 
    Green grapes, peeled and chopped.
    Red grapes halved
    Apples peeled and cubed
    Fresh pineapple chunks
    Fresh peeled orange sections
  • Ambrosia salad (contemporary) fruit options:
    Strawberries
    Mango
    Blueberries
    Kiwi
    Raisins
    Bananas sliced, tossed in lemon juice (added right before serving)

serving of Ambrosia Salad in a clear cup with a cherry on top and a gold spoon

Substitutions For Fruit Salad With Yogurt Or Sour Cream

There are many variations or substitutions for the yummy cream base. Feel free to adjust to your own flavor palate or strike a reminiscent note and a nod to grandma’s lost ambrosia salad recipe. 

If you are a newbie to this refreshing fruit salad with yogurt and not keen on culinary adventures the first time out, no worries. You’ll love this version and may be inspired to build your own easy ambrosia salad tradition!

  • Ambrosia Salad Creamy Base Substitutions (Traditional)
    Whipped Condensed Milk
    Mayonnaise 
    Marshmallow Creme/Fluff
    Whipped Cream
  • (Contemporary) Cream Substitutions For Ambrosia Salad
    Flavored Yogurt(s) Strawberry, Lemon, Banana,…etc
    Marshmallows
    Jello & Cream Cheese
    Cool Whip/Non-Dairy Topping
    Heavy Cream
  • Use 1 cup of sour cream to replace the yogurt altogether. The tangy cream pairs wonderfully with the fruit in ambrosia salad.
  • Replace pecans with walnuts, pistachios, or almonds

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Easy Ambrosia Salad collage

Easy Ambrosia Salad in a white bowl with a gold spoon

Easy Ambrosia Salad

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes

A vintage fruit salad dessert with the perfect blend of tangy citrus, juicy cherries, sweet pineapple, and toasted coconut. This popular dessert salad makes a tasty choice all year round.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows (white or fruit flavored)
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1 1 ounce can pineapple tidbits, well drained
  • 1 1 ounce can mandarin oranges, well drained
  • 10 ounce jar maraschino cherries, with stems removed, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. DRAIN the pineapples, oranges, and cherries in a strainer and let sit for an hour, if you can.
  2. TOAST the coconut. This is an optional step but really brings a flavor boost to the coconut. Place coconut in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir frequently until fragrant and toasted (about 2-3 minutes).
  3. FOLD together all of the ingredients, except the pecans in a large bowl.
  4. CHILL in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
  5. SERVE chilled. When ready to serve fold in pecans and enjoy!

Notes

It really helps if you can allow the fruit to drain for about an hour, to prevent your ambrosia salad from being runny.

Rinse the cherries in cold water then place them in the strainer. This will prevent the salad from turning pink.

Toasting the coconut is optional, but VERY easy and quick to do and will give a great flavor boost!

Not a fan of coconut or pecans? Leave them out.

Optional fruit to add: green grapes, peeled and chopped apple, banana sliced (you will want to add them before serving along with a little lemon juice to help prevent browning.

Replace pecans with walnuts or almonds,

Replace vanilla yogurt with plain Greek yogurt, Cool Whip, or whipped cream.

Use 1 cup sour cream and omit the yogurt. The tanginess of the sour cream pairs wonderfully with the sweet fruit.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 197Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 41mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 3gSugar: 20gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, and freshness of ingredients used.

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big bowl of Easy Ambrosia Salad